Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Late May Flowers

It seems a bit quiet in the garden now, although when I look around I do see lots of things blooming here and there. Here are a few things that caught my eye on a morning stroll:

Campanula persicifolia (Peach-leaved bellflower)
I just planted this campanula, so it's still really puny, but it's blooming sweetly already. I don't expect it to live long, but it's a nice filler between slow-growing neighbors. I like the soft violet flowers against the backdrop of purplish sedum foliage.

Geranium sanguineum 'Shepherd's Warning'
The deep magenta color of this geranium is arresting (it appears darker and more violet in reality - my camera refuses to photograph certain colors accurately...), but this cultivar is a bit TOO diminutive for me. It's only about 3 inches tall - wouldn't hide your toes, much less the dying bulb foliage behind it. I may have to replace it with something a bit bushier.

Tradescantia andersoniana  'Blue Stone'
Tradescantia (Spiderwort) is a cheerful, unassuming plant. I think it's the perfect thing to come upon at the bottom of a stair. A sprinkling of new flowers appears every morning, but they fade before evening falls. Oh well, you have the next day's flowers to look forward to!

Heuchera 'Snow Angel', with Dicentra spectabilis and Dryopteris felix-mas
This heuchera just keeps on going and going! It has been blooming for almost a month now. As you can see there are a few scattered blooms still lingering on the bleeding heart as well.

Peony 'Myrtle Gentry'
One of my herbaceous peonies, 'Myrtle Gentry', is blooming! It was planted just last fall so I'm impressed that it has such a nice fat bloom this spring. The flower is stuffed to bursting with gentle pink petals, and has an incredible fragrance reminiscent of old garden roses. Can't wait for it to increase and put on a big show!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Bouquet

My six-year-old daughter picked these for me yesterday:

Bouquet of Peony and Coralbells
She loves to pick flowers - it's sometimes hard to keep them in the garden with her around! She wants to know the names of plants and likes things with funny names, like "pigsqueak" and "foxgloves." She was excited to learn that the flowers she picked come from China, and now marches about proudly telling people how she made a "Chinese bouquet."

I'm not sure what variety the peony is - it was here when we moved in. It is a midseason bloomer with pale shell pink petals with occasional red flecks. Not particularly fragrant. Might be 'Norma Volz', or something similar. The poor thing is wedged between the side of the house and a tall privacy fence, with a dense canopy of arborvitae above. It gets basically no sunlight there - I really have no idea how it manages to survive, much less bloom!

Poor peony in the shade
Since I rather like the flowers, I may try to move it somewhere more suitable in the fall. I have three more herbaceous peonies (whose names I do know) which should be blooming soon - can't wait! I'll have to try to hide the scissors from my daughter when they open...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Veggie Garden in May

My little veggie garden is rolling along, and I've got most things planted out now. May is a time for harvesting GREEN things in my area:

Lettuce 'Australian Yellow'

Lettuce 'Deer Tongue'

Lettuces: 'Australian Yellow' has a nice crisp ruffly texture, and brightens up the garden with its spring green color.

'Deer Tongue' is my favorite for flavor - chewy, succulent texture and a sweet nutty flavor (almost like mache).

Bed of baby brassicas
My brassica bed is filled with baby greens which I use for stir-fry, soups, and salads: senposai, baby bok choi, and mustard greens. There are some teeny little green onions in there too, which are barely visible in the picture.

Spinach 'Tyee'
My spring-planted spinach bed is now maturing, and I've removed the overwintered fall-planted spinach to replace it with beans for summer. 'Tyee' is my favorite spinach cultivar of the ones I've tried - nice juicy thick leaves, and holds relatively well into the summer.


I'm the only one in my family who likes arugula, so this is all for me! I'm totally addicted to the spicy, nutty flavor, but it's definitely one of those veggies that is capable of inspiring both intense love and hate. This planting is getting a bit over-mature, so I'll cook it to soften it up.

Try this:
-cooked pasta
-barely blanched arugula
-lots of parmesan cheese
-a few chopped prunes (yes, prunes)
-olive oil


Pea 'Karina' flowering

The peas are flowering, so hopefully any day now we will be in pea-eating heaven - my daughter's favorite garden snack. 'Karina' is a new English (shelly) pea I'm trying this year - supposed to keep producing later in the summer than most peas. That would sure be awesome, if it were true!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May blooms

I'm joining in Carol's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - even if it is a bit late! It's been a crazy week at work for me (exam week!), so I'm behind in gardening and posting. Here's what's been popping in the garden:

Dicentra spectabilis with Narcissus 'Thalia'
I love the foliage on bleeding hearts as well as the flowers. The foliage remains fresh and attractive in this cool, shady spot all summer in my northern garden. In a hot, dry area the foliage would probably die back in summer. This picture is from about a week ago - the narcissus blooms are gone now, but the bleeding hearts are still going strong. It's really a long bloomer!

Geranium sanguineum var. striatum
This geranium is common and ordinary, but I like it a lot. The foliage is nice, the plant grows vigorously, and the soft shell pink of the flowers complements but does not clash with any of its neighbors. Bloom is strongest in spring, but it continues to bloom all summer.

Bergenia 'Winterglow' with Dryopteris felix-mas, Narcissus 'Thalia', Polygonatum odoratum
This bergenia has shockingly bright pink flowers when it first opens, which gradually fade to a softer, more lavender shade (above). I enjoy the color transition. The polygonatum is also blooming now.

Phlox subulata NOID
I inherited this little pink phlox with the yard, so I don't know its name. It's a rather scruffy-looking little thing which will probably get the ax once I find something to replace it. Perhaps it just needs to be divided or moved to a better spot to restore it to its former glory.

 This unknown dianthus is also an inherited plant. I find the color of the flowers too strident, and it has no fragrance! Now what is the point of a dianthus with no fragrance, I ask you? He is certainly in line for the shovel-prune.

Nepeta 'Dropmore Hybrid'
My catmint is still blooming - I love this plant! The foliage makes me want to pet it - I don't usually do that though, because of the many bees who like to visit the flowers.

Blooming: Allium 'Globemaster' and 'Purple Sensation', tree peonies
Allium are also still going, although they are beginning to fade. I was surprised at how long they last! The foliage looks awful, of course. I need to add more bushy neighbors to mask this. The above is a picture from about a week ago, when the tree peonies were still at it.

Heuchera 'Snow Angel'
 Some of my heucheras are starting to bloom. My favorite for flowers so far is this one - 'Snow Angel'. And the foliage is attractive too.

Tradescantia 'Bluestone'
The tradescantia (spiderwort) are just barely getting started. It's not a big showcase plant, but I do love that deep blue color.

Aquilegia 'McKana Giants'
This poor columbine has been almost entirely stripped of its foliage by rabbits... yet it still manages to bloom. Despite its tenacity, I'll have to replace it at some point with something that doesn't look like skewered flower on a stick.

Now this inherited columbine the bunnies leave alone, maybe because it's more mature, or maybe because it's not new. You can see that the foliage is already starting to decline. It looks a wreck after blooming, although I am enjoying it at present.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Second Tree Peony

My first tree peony ever began to bloom last week. Now my second one has opened its dark red buds!

Tree peony 'Wu Jin Yao Hui'
 Its name is 'Wu Jin Yao Hui', which means something like "Glittering Black Gold" in Chinese.  I can't seem to capture the color accurately with my camera - it is a deeper wine-color in reality. The flowers have a sweet fragrance, but the scent is not nearly as strong as my white one, 'Xiang Yu'. (In peonies as in roses, stronger pigmentation tends to correlate with fainter fragrance.)
Tree peony 'Wu Jin Yao Hui' - 6-year old plant

This is a 6-year old, which is still just a young'un for a tree peony. When it is older, the plant will of course be larger and have more flowers, but also the flower size should increase, and each flower should have more petals. Tree peonies sometimes have very differently shaped juvenile and adult flowers.

Tree peony 'Wu Jin Yao Hui' - bud opening

Naturally, as soon as the flowers started opening it began pouring down rain. Hopefully we will have some cool dry weather now so these flowers will linger for a few days... but we all know that peonies are a fleeting joy.

Tree peony 'Wu Jin Yao Hui'

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Early May Views

Here are some views of my garden in early May:

Front Entry Border - This small wedge between the front walk and house is sunny, hot, and dry. At the moment it's got allium, catmint, purple sedum, dwarf spruce, thyme, dianthus, lysimachia, and geranium sanguineum in it. I'd like to add something taller to give it more height at some point (a climbing rose perhaps?), and need more bushy things to hide dying tulip and allium foliage.

Allium 'Globemaster', Nepeta 'Dropmore Hybrid', Picea abies

Side Shady Border - This long narrow strip under the eaves in my side yard is dry and shady. It is currently home to bleeding heart, bergenia, ferns, hellebores, polygonatum, a dwarf oakleaf hydrangea, canadian ginger, heucherella, heuchera, and astilbe. (The astilbe needs to be moved to a moister spot - last year it shriveled up and I thought it was a goner for sure!) There are also daffodil and hyacinth bulbs. I need to add more height here as well - I may try to persuade a euonymous to climb a small trellis, and perhaps add some wood spurge. (By the way, all of those rocks were dug out by me when preparing the beds!)
Blooming: Narcissus 'Thalia', Bergenia cordifolia 'Winterglow', Dicentra spectabilis
Back Patio Border - There is a raised bed around the patio lined with large stones. (I didn't dig these out though - they were already there, whew!) This area gets a bit of sun and has average moisture. It has columbine, phlox subulata, heuchera, some garish yellow hosta, lamium, astilbe, sedum, tradescantia, and stokesia. There are still lots of gaps here because this is one of the rabbits' (many) favorite snacking posts. There are small shrubs at the back which will hopefully one day be visible above the hosta!
Blooming: Aquilegia, phlox subulata
 The weeds growing in and under the rocks here drive me bonkers - impossible to pull, and almost no "real" plants will grow there. Have had a bit of success getting some thyme to establish, but it's still mostly weeds.
Aquilegia, Phlox subulata, Hosta, Lamium 'Orchid Frost'

Veggie Garden - Here is my veggie garden in early May: arugula, spinach, radishes, peas, broccoli, and lettuces are maturing, while a variety of Asian greens are just coming up. Tomatoes are growing away happily in their Kozy Coats. Snails are of course eating my beets - sigh. We had very cold weather and slow growth in April, but I'm hoping things will start popping in May!

Veggie Garden early May 2012
Emerging senposai, bok choi, mustard greens

Thursday, May 3, 2012

First Tree Peony!

My first ever tree peony has bloomed! I'm very excited - they are my favorite plant. Here it is just beginning to open...

Tree peony 'Xiang Yu' beginning to open

I planted three tree peonies last fall. This one is only a two year old plant - actually quite surprising that it would bloom at this young age. (Often tree peonies don't bloom until they are 5-7 years old!)  There were three buds of which two have opened so far:

Tree peony 'Xiang Yu' flowering (2 year old plant)
This is a Chinese tree peony called 'Xiang Yu', which means "Fragrant Jade." It is indeed very fragrant - a dense, sweet, and slightly musky scent. Most Japanese tree peonies have had the fragrance bred right out of them. One thing I like about the Chinese varieties is that they have a wide variety of different scents: sweet, spicy, musky, or fruity.

Tree peony 'Xiang Yu'
Supposedly, this cultivar blooms as a semi-double with unstable flower form when young, then produces consistently double blooms when mature. Mine is still very small and young. I actually love seeing the bright red interior of the flower, so I'm rather enjoying this juvenile semi-double stage.

I have two more tree peonies - one is a six-year old dark red that has nine buds on it this year. Can't wait for it to bloom! The third one, a two-year old like 'Xiang Yu', will not bloom this year, which is sad but of course perfectly normal. It is growing vigorously, and is a much larger plant than 'Xiang Yu' already.
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